New finds delay De Soto artifacts exhibit


Published: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 4:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, August 15, 2012 at 8:58 p.m.

OCALA — Artifacts left behind by Spanish explorer Hernando De Soto on his 1539 march through Florida that have been hidden beneath the earth near Citra for hundreds of years will remain out of public view for a few months longer.

The New World Treasures display of the coins, pottery and beads planned to open next month at the Appleton Museum of Art was put on hold Tuesday until next year — due to discovery recently of even more artifacts, including new items believed linked to De Soto.

In an email to the Star-Banner, Ocala archaeologist Ashley White noted “the finds are quite exciting, and the discovery does help complete the historical picture and it would be very important for these De Soto artifacts to be in any upcoming exhibition.”

He said on Wednesday that the new items mostly include pottery, some of it dating back to 850 B.C., by peoples living in the Black Sink area near Orange Lake. The display as originally planned was “light on the native Indians living in that area.

“When the archaeological investigation is complete, these artifacts along with the others will be placed on display for a more complete history of the site,” he added.

Ruth Grim, the Appleton’s curator of exhibits, said “we were really looking forward to it, but we’re happy there’ll be more to be presented.” She said the exhibit will be “a more in-depth display.”

Earlier this year White announced the discovery of a De Soto encampment on his family’s 700-acre site near Orange Lake, along with evidence nearby of a Spanish mission that was founded more than 60 years after De Soto.

At the mission site, White’s wife, Michele, and their son, Ethan, uncovered more than 100 coins dating back to the early 17th century, among other items.

An exhibit of the finds was planned for a Sept. 22 opening at the Appleton. A new date has not been decided yet.

It will “hopefully (be) in the coming year,” White said, “but surely during Viva Florida 500” — a statewide recognition of 500 years of Florida’s connection with Spain.

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